Rebrand for investment zones after Truss proposals junked
Investment zones in the West Midlands will be rebranded ‘levelling-up zones’ as bids by the West Midlands Combined Authority have been abandoned by Rishi Sunak’s government.
Business leaders and politicians in the West Midlands claimed the investment zones would boost the regional economy by more than £4.7 billion a year, create more than 65,000 new jobs, 18,600 homes and more than 333 million square feet of commercial space.
But the plans, which would have allowed tax exemptions and liberalised planning rules, are set to be scrapped as Mr Sunak dismantles another legacy of former prime minister Liz Truss.
First reported by The Guardian, fewer than 20 zones will now focus on delivering growth for universities.
Investment zones were billed only three months ago as a way to drive growth by cutting red tape, including planning regulation, and offering time-limited tax incentives.
Under its new layout, universities in Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton would benefit, with areas such as Sandwell, Dudley, and Walsall potentially missing out.
Previous chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said 38 local authorities were interested, and named 24 sites that could be eligible. Around 76 formally applied to the scheme.
Investment zones considered in the West Midlands included Arden Cross and the new HS2 Interchange station in Solihull and brownfield regeneration in Sandwell.
Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, defended the decision and said he was confident the bids remain “resolute”.
The mayor, who backed Liz Truss during last year’s Conservative leadership election, said: “We look forward to submitting our strong proposals once the new process is in place and if any of our existing local options don’t chime with the new criteria, they will certainly feature in our broader devolution deal asks.
“Whether it’s investment zones, levelling up zones or another label altogether, what really matters here is that we will continue to make our powerful case to government as we unlock new opportunities for residents right across our region in the months and years ahead.”